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Application Information

Admission to the Graduate Program in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EARTH) is competitive. Each year we receive more applications (~180) than openings (~25). Most of our successful applicants (i) earned a degree in some branch of Earth and Environmental Science, Engineering, or a natural science (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, etc.), (ii) have an undergraduate record with considerable quantitative coursework, (iii) have undergraduate research experience, (iv) have insightful recommendation letters, and (v) have made a connection to potential research advisers in EARTH. To prepare a compelling application, see "Tips for prospective students before applying" at the bottom of this page.

For U-M undergraduate students who are currently pursuing an EARTH major, we also offer a fifth-year MS program. These students must discuss their application with the Associate Chair for Curriculum before applying.

The Department offers full financial support that depends on the program and the earned degree:

Program       Students entering with a       Duration of support
PhD       BS degree       5 years
PhD       MS degree       4 years
MS       BS degree       2 years

Application to the Rackham Graduate School

Prospective students apply to the Rackham Graduate School for admission in the following fall term. See Applying to UM-Ann Arbor on the Rackham site.

Prospective students will need

  1. test scores
  2. transcript
  3. academic credentials from non-US institutions
  4. three (3) letters of recommendation
  5. academic statement of purpose and personal statement

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test or the subject test are not required.

The application fee is due when the application is submitted. In 2022, this fee was $75 for US citizens and permanent residents, $90 for non-US citizens, $10 for current Rackham students regardless of citizenship. The Department waives the application fee if students had been admitted to our Fall Preview Program. See also Application Fee and Waivers.

Applicants whose primary language is other than English must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. In 2022, the Rackham Graduate School at U-M requires a minimum TOEFL score of 84 or a minimum IELTSm score of 6.4. To be competitive in EARTH, the TOEFL or IELTS scores should be higher than 100 and 7.0, respectively.

The University of Michigan code for the TOEFL is 1839. (The department code is not necessary, since TOEFL scores are automatically added to applicant records as long as name and birth date can be matched). Applicants must request that their scores be sent to the University of Michigan using the code above. The scores will be downloaded to the University's database and automatically included in the application. Requests can be made on the TOEFL web site. Official downloaded TOEFL scores are required. Photocopies are not accepted. The applicant must pay for this examination and ensure that the results are sent. See the Rackham Admissions Test Page for more information about English tests.

Scanned or electronic copies of official transcripts must be uploaded with the application online. If the university only provides electronic transcripts, it may be necessary to upload a scanned hardcopy with the application. In addition to the official transcript from the university where the applicant received or will receive a BS or MS degree, it is helpful to upload copies of other academic transcripts related to courses transferred for credit.

All applicants are required to submit a self-reported GPA. Students from a university outside the United States must use the Scolaro GPA Calculator to convert grades to a GPA in the U.S. system.

The uploaded transcript is sufficient for our faculty to review the application. If the applicant has been recommended for admission, he or she will receive an email from the Rackham Graduate School Admissions Office requesting an official transcript. See the Instructions for Submitting Transcripts on Rackham's website. To connect it to the application, the applicant should send the Academic Records/Transcript Submission Form with the official transcript and include the University of Michigan ID number. See also Required Academic Credentials from Non-U.S. Institutions.

Recommendation letters should ordinarily be from professors at the student's last degree-granting institution. Recommenders must complete their recommendations online. When the applicant registers the recommenders' names in ApplyWeb, an email is automatically sent with a link to enter the recommendation online. Applicants should check the status of their recommendations on the ApplyWeb website status page.

The Statement of Purpose should include the applicant's research goals for graduate school and highlight the research experience, such as lab work, publications, and conference presentations.

Deadline

A completed application form, including all three letters of recommendation and TOEFL scores, must be submitted on the ApplyWeb website by midnight on January 7, but check here (select "Earth and Environmental Sciences") for the most recent information. Applications that fail to meet this deadline will not be considered for Fall Term admission.

Application Codes

02043   PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences
02044   MS in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Tips for prospective students before applying

Think carefully about what you want to get out of graduate school. Going to graduate school is a long-term commitment and the experience is unlike what you have experienced as an undergraduate student. The emphasis moves from coursework to research, from structured syllabi to research paths that can be uncertain. A student who succeeds in graduate school is excited by science, can work independently, and does not mind working long hours and weekends if necessary. Consider whether this student could be you. Enthusiasm for your field of study is perhaps the most important factor in your decision to go to graduate school. Graduate studies will take up much of your time and dominate your life. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you can be in for a miserable time. Get perspectives from graduate students in your school. Find out why they are in graduate school and what they wish they knew before applying to graduate school.

Think carefully about your study area.  You have probably narrowed down your research focus to sub-disciplines like environmental science, paleontology, or geophysics.  However, don't let a relatively short undergraduate research experience dictate your thesis topic and research advisor. Every sub-discipline has many sub-sub disciplines with entirely different research questions and research approaches that your have not explored. Ask faculty in your deparment abouty their research and attend departmental seminars to get a feel for what's out there in the earth and environmental sciences. Think about the courses you have found most inspiring, how you have chosen your major, and what kind of course assignments or independent research approaches you enjoyed the most (laboratory, field, theoretical and computational). Get perspectives from graduate students in your school. Find out how they have chosen their program and advisor.

Contact potential supervisors directly and early. Unlike departments who admit a cadre of students "at large", EARTH admits applicants only if a faculty member or researcher agrees to advise and mentor them. This means that your chances of admission will be highest if you have contacted one or more faculty members in advance to discuss the graduate program and your background and interests. Explore the research pages of EARTH faculty and researchers, even read a few of their papers. Email your CV to potential academic and research mentors. Tell them about yourself, your prior research experience, why you are interested in grad school, and why you want to pursue a MS or PhD with them. Ask them to explain potential projects and how your interests and skills may complement their research program. If you receive a positive reply, keep the correspondence up. Send follow-up questions and suggest a phone or video call or a meeting at an upcoming conference like GSA or AGU.

Take quantitative courses while you can. Many institutions, including our department, recruit students who have taken rigorous coursework in math (calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, statistics) and supporting sciences (biology, chemistry, computer science, physics).

Academic Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement. In your Academic Statement of Purpose, describe research directions that you might pursue in graduate school, including any ideas that you have discussed with a potential adviser. You want to demonstrate your track record for independent work and highlight your research experience and academic contributions. Explain your role in the work, what you have learned, and what you have enjoyed the most.

Choose your references carefully. Your reference writers should be academics, and at least one person should be familiar with the field of your interest. Someone who knows you well and can speak to your abilities and motivation can write a more informative recommendation letter than someone who is more senior but does not know your academic background. Ask potential reference writers early whether they would be willing to write a letter for you. Share your CV and statements with them, ask for feedback, and even offer to write a draft of their letters.

Our pitch for EARTH

 

How to Check your Application Status

You can check your application status on the University of Michigan Wolverine Access web site. Create a "friend account" on Wolverine Access and follow these directions.

Questions?

If you or your recommender needs technical assistance regarding the application or recommendation systems please email ApplyWeb at help@applyweb.com. Include the following information: user name, full name, email address, and phone number. ApplyWeb typically responds within 24 hours.

To contact the Earth and Environmental Sciences Graduate Admissions Office: email michigan-earth@umich.edu.

Evaluation of applications by the Department

The Admission Committee is composed of the Grad Chair and four members of the faculty. It evaluates applications immediately after the application deadline. Following a holistic approach, it pays attention to course work, grades, writing skills, academic and life experiences, and the applicant’s dedication to pursuing an MS or PhD degree. We score the applicants based on three criteria, which describe a combination of skills and characteristics needed for success in graduate school:

  1. preparation for graduate work (classwork, training)
  2. aptitude for original scientific research (e.g., research experience)
  3. perseverance or tenacity (personal experience).

We do not distinguish between international and domestic students. However we acknowledge that it is difficult to compare coursework, course grades, from international institutions to schools in the US. We also recognize cultural differences in recommendation letters from US and international institutions and among US applicants from different kinds of institutions. The Admission Committee has members from different subdisciplines in the earth and environmental sciences including international scholars. They share their insights and experiences and receive feedback on the applicants from all faculty members to assure a fair and rigorous evaluation process. We aim to have admissions decisions communicated to all applicants around mid-March. Admitted applicants have until April 15 to reply with their acceptance of admission offers.

Interviews

Typically, we make offers to students during the first two weeks of February. We invite domestic applicants to visit the Department. We prefer to have all visiting students come on the same coordinated visit day so they have the opportunity to meet their cohort. This coordinated visit day is the Friday before University of Michigan's Winter Break, usually in mid February. If applicants are unable to come or faculty hosts are unavailable on that day we will find an alternative date. We cover the applicant’s travel, lodging in a hotel, and all meals. Applicants will spend a significant portion of the day in the Department and on campus to learn about our program, research and teaching opportunities, graduate coursework, and various (student-organized) academic and social activities. The coordinated visit day may look like this:

8:30 am     breakfast with your faculty host and lab
10:15 am – 11:00 am     introduction by the Grad Chair / q&a
11:00 am – 2:30 pm     time with faculty host and lab members / off-campus lunch
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm     campus tour
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm     Smith (Departmental) lecture
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm     reception
5:30 pm –     dinner with graduate students / exploring town

The time in the group of your faculty host is the opportunity for you to explore lab facilities, to learn about ongoing research, and the potential thesis research directions for you. Ideally you will come away with a good understanding of the lab, the lab culture, and a sense of how it would be to spend several years on innovative thesis research in the Department. We recommend you discuss teaching opportunities as a Graduate Student Instructor (including summer teaching at Camp Davis), funding, fieldwork, summer internships, and opportunities to attend conferences and workshops. Ask current graduate students about their experiences with your potential advisor and what they like and do not like about the department, the campus, and Ann Arbor.